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Whooping Crane Migration in Tennessee


December 6, 2007


Rachel F. Levin, 612-713-5311
Liz Condie, 905-982-1096

Seventeen endangered whooping crane chicks and their surrogate parents—four ultralight aircraft—today reached Cumberland County, Tennessee as they continue their 1,250-mile migration from Necedah National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in central Wisconsin to Chassahowitzka NWR along Florida's Gulf Coast. They have traveled 680 miles.

These majestic birds, the largest in North America, began their migration from Necedah on Oct. 13. Cumberland County, Tennessee is one of the many pre-arranged stopovers the ultralight migration crew will use along its journey to allow the pilots and birds to rest between flights.

There are now 59 migratory whooping cranes in the wild in eastern North America thanks to the efforts of the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP), an international coalition of public and private groups that is reintroducing whooping cranes in their historic range.

In addition to the 17 birds being led south by ultralights, 10 other birds were released in the company of older cranes in the hope that the young whooping cranes learn the migration route, part of WCEP’s “Direct Autumn Release” program, which supplements the successful ultralight migrations.

For more information about WCEP, go to

Whooping cranes were on the verge of extinction in the 1940s. Today, there are only about 350 of them in the wild. WCEP asks anyone who encounters a whooping crane in the wild to please give them the respect and distance they need. Do not approach birds on foot within 200 yards; try to remain in your vehicle; and do not approach in a vehicle within 100 yards. Also, please remain concealed and do not speak loudly enough that the birds can hear you. Finally, do not trespass on private property in an attempt to view whooping cranes.

Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership founding members are the International Crane Foundation; Operation Migration Inc.; Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; the U.S. Geological Survey’s Patuxent Wildlife Research Center and National Wildlife Health Center; the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation; the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin; and the International Whooping Crane Recovery Team.

Many other flyway states, provinces, private individuals and conservation groups have joined forces with and support WCEP by donating resources, funding and personnel. More than 60 percent of the project’s budget comes from private sources in the form of grants, public donations and corporate sponsors.


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